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Two Projects to Improve E. coli Testing Receive Funding

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Two Canadian projects have received funding for the development of new genomics-based tests for detecting E. coli in food processing facilities.

The projects will receive C$500,000 (US$479,644) each in funding from Genome Alberta, Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency, Alberta Innovates Bio Solutions, Genome Canada, Genome Quebec, and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food and the Ministry of Rural Affairs, Genome Alberta announced today. Additional funding will bring the total investment to C$1.6 million over the 18-month life of the projects.

The C$1 million funding program was announced late last year.

One project, titled "Rapid Sampling and Detection of STEC in Meat" will be led by Linda Pilarski and Lynn McMullen from the University of Alberta. They and their colleagues will collaborate with Xianqin Yang from the Lacombe Research Center to modify an existing testing platform for the rapid detection of E. coli. The new platform requires minimal capital equipment, can be used by existing staff, and provides results in less than one hour, Genome Alberta said

The researchers also will develop improved sampling strategies in order to accelerate the turnaround time, it added.

The second project is titled "Point-of-Need Gene-based System for Detection of Priority STEC in Beef." Michel Bergeron of Université Laval and of the Research Center of the University Hospital of Quebec, and Burton Blais of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency will direct the project, which seeks to develop a test method for detecting less than 10- Shiga toxin and verotoxin-producing E. coli cells present in 325 grams of ground or trim beef.

The method will be based on real-time PCR. The STEC7 panel, made up of seven E. coli serotypes is a major priority of food inspection agencies in Canada and the US, Genome Alberta said.

Bergeron and Blais aim to improve the enrichment method currently in use; develop a "compact and industry-friendly" sample prep method to "efficiently recover E. coli cells" from an enriched culture in six hours or less; and "deliver the concentrated cell suspension to a microfluidic device" and an automated instrument being commercialized by GenePoc. The device can detect target E. coli in less than one hour.